The Qantas Group Pilot Academy is expected to open its doors to students during 2019 and is likely to be established near an existing airfield in regional Australia to provide easy access to uncongested airspace. It will represent an initial investment of up to $20 million to establish the new facility.
Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said the academy would become a critical part of the national carrier’s long term talent pipeline – and an important resource for Australian aviation.
“Qantas has a proud history of having some of the best pilots in the world and we want to make sure it stays that way. By creating our own academy, we can train the next generation of pilots to the Qantas Group standard.
“Boeing estimates the world will need about 640,000 more pilots in the next 20 years, with 40 per cent in the Asia Pacific region. That level of demand makes the academy important not just for Qantas but for Australian aviation more broadly so that all parts of the industry have access to qualified pilots in a country that relies so heavily on air transport.
“Over time, we see potential for the academy to become a competitive advantage for Australia in the region. It could train pilots for other airlines and grow into the largest academy of its kind in the southern hemisphere,” added Mr Joyce.
The academy will initially train around 100 pilots a year for direct entry into the Qantas Group, including Jetstar and regional carrier, QantasLink. Depending on demand from other parts of the aviation industry, this could grow to 500 pilots a year on a fee-for-service basis.
The typical path for most students entering the academy will be high school and university graduates with strong academic performance. After up to 18 months of classroom, simulator and real-world flight training, students would then receive further training specific to the type of aircraft they will be flying before entering service as a First Officer on turboprop aircraft, sitting next to an experienced Captain.
Mr Joyce said that addressing the chronic gender imbalance among pilots - with a global average of 97 per cent males in the profession – would be key to meeting market demand.
"If we’re leaving out almost 50 per cent of the population in our search for the next generation of 640,000 pilots, we’re clearly not tapping into all of the talent that’s available. As an industry, we need to do a much better job of encouraging women to become pilots and take up what is an exciting career path," he said.
In late 2017, Qantas announced the Nancy Bird Walton initiative – named after the pioneering Australian aviator - to improve on its 5 per cent proportion of female pilots. It commits the Qantas Group to a 20 per cent intake of qualified women in its 2018 Future Pilot Program (which is in line with the proportion of women in aviation courses nationally) and to reach at least 40 per cent over the next decade.
In establishing the academy, Qantas will partner with one of several existing training providers. It will also engage with Federal, State and Territory governments to discuss possible locations.
Currently, the Qantas Group sources pilots from a mix of new graduates from existing flying schools, pilots from general aviation and the military, and from other commercial airlines. This is expected to continue in order to provide the different levels of experience needed by the national carrier. An additional program to help mentor and then recruit the ‘best and brightest’ aviation students from five Australian universities was announced last year. The Group has more than 3,500 pilots and plans to recruit a further 350 by the end of 2018.
Qantas first had a pilot training school in the 1920s, shortly after the airline was established. Some of Australia’s earliest aviators were trained at its facilities in Brisbane and Longreach. Today, the Qantas Group has a series of training facilities and flight simulators around the country as part of ongoing skills development for established pilots. Aspiring pilots wishing to express interest in finding out more about the academy can visit www.qantas.com/pilotacademy.